A bad storm came through and damaged your fence. Your first instinct is to repair it. The same is true of many homeowners, regardless of whether the fence was a target of vandals, a victim of age, or something else entirely. Many automatically figure repairing the damage would cost less than replacing the fence. But is that always true, especially when you add in the time and effort involved?
The fact is, deciding whether to repair or replace a fence can be a tough call. You must consider how old your fence is, how bad the damage is, and what costs are involved with a repair versus a replacement. In some cases, a relatively new fence still will be under warranty, and repair work makes the most sense. In other cases, when it saves money, energy and/or time, installing a new fence is the better choice.
To help you evaluate your options when your fence needs help, here’s a look at what you need to know about handling fence damage.
Before assuming that fence replacement will cost more than repairs, take the time to compare the potential expenses. Ask yourself:
- Is the fence still under warranty?
- Is the fence old enough that it’s outdated anyway?
- What materials will I have to buy to fix the fence damage? Posts, fasteners, latches, gravel, etc.?
- How extensive is the damage, and how much has to be repaired?
Maybe you have a simple repair job ahead of you — a hole to patch, or a section to repaint. Maybe you have a much larger problem, such as large sections of your vinyl fence being cracked, or a number of loosened posts along your aluminum fence. If that’s the case, don’t forget to also consider the difficulty of coming up with matching parts. Once you combine all of the repair-related costs, then you can determine if you are saving money by sticking to repairs.
Financial costs aren’t the only considerations for a project, so it’s important to look beyond the monetary expenses. How much labor will be involved in the repairs? Will you be doing it yourself or hiring a contractor? What’s tough about repair work compared with a new installation is that it can be difficult to estimate the cost of the repairs. You could face a variety of unknowns — further damage that originally was invisible, for instance — whereas with an installation you know what to expect. Again, compare the work involved with repairing the fence versus installing a new fence to see which makes more sense in your situation.
Last, but not least, evaluate the time commitment involved with repairing or replacing a fence. While putting in a new fence can take one or two days for professionals, the time involved for repair work can vary. If you are considering handing repairs yourself, leave some room in your timeline for problems, such as coming across a giant rock where you want to sink a new post, or the difficulty of running a fence down a graded part of the property. You may want to get an estimate from a contractor as well as evaluate the DIY option. Comparing how much time each option would take gives you another metric for evaluating whether it makes more sense to repair or replace your fence.
Whether you’re talking about a white picket fence in the front yard or a tall privacy fence in the back yard, when you’ve got a fence that’s damaged, you’ve got decisions to make. Before assuming one or the other option is best, take the time to think through the potential costs involving the financial end, plus labor and time. Sometimes talking with a fence contractor can help you evaluate your options more thoroughly. Then, based on which option makes the most sense for you, you can decide with confidence whether to repair or replace the fence.
Jim Wall is the founder of The Fence Store, which was established in 1989. The Fence Store has done fencing work for Northwestern University and throughout the Chicago area.